With Earth there was wildlife. With wildlife came biodiversity. With biodiversity there were humans. With humans came… Chaos? I try not to think like that but you have to admit that most of the time it’s true.
It started with an epicentre, which quickly became an epidemic and now it’s a pandemic. And this week the conversation has started hitting close to home, even in the remotest areas like Exmoor.
We were told to stand down on Monday night; there will be a skeleton team of rangers getting the everyday essentials done and the rest will stay away or work from home. To not be able to work outdoors feels like my breath’s been taken away from me.
My very good friend Mark messaged me this afternoon and I lazily remarked how lucky he is to be able to take his (pet) dog Ollie out for a walk when I didn’t have a dog as an excuse. He then surprised me by saying the darndest thing; something I couldn’t possibly have conjured up in my haze of lamentation.
“You have a million pet trees. Go and visit your pets!”
That certainly struck me out of my stupor. Yes, I could continue to bemoan my forced lack of interaction with my favourite beings even though I was taking time indoors to study them in books and in my forestry syllabus. Yes, I can put my feet up at home and binge on countless tv drama series and think fondly of my beloved trees. BUT COME ON CHERYL, YOU CAN DO BETTER!!
In these times of viral uncertainty, I would seek to follow the advice of one of my favourite authors, Peter Wohlleben, in one of the chapters of his book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, titled ‘The Sick Tree’.
“These so-called phytoncides have antibiotic properties, and there has been some impressive research done on them. A biologist from Leningrad, Boris Tokin, described them like this back in 1956: if you add a pinch of crushed spruce or pine needles to a drop of water that contains protozoa, in less than a second, the protozoa are dead. In the same paper, Tokin writes that the air in young pine forests is almost germfree, thanks to the phytoncides released by the needles. In essence, then, trees disinfect their surroundings… The phytoncides in conifers are particularly pungent, and they are the origin of that heady forest scent that is especially intense on hot summer days.”
Taking a walk in isolation isn’t too bad. You get time for self-reflection, you are at least 2-metres away from people and you can count yourself lucky to have access to natural spaces like that. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a traditional practice of spending time in a forest observing the sights, sounds and your feelings to achieve a state of calm and take the stress away. A walk in the woods amongst Nature will definitely bring back some sanity and take you to a place a world away from the mania that’s going on at the moment.
So do go and find yourself a corner in the woods. Fight your corona.